Online Gambling Crackdowns Continue In The U.S. As Committee Hearing Is Postponed

Since the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, U.S. crackdowns on online casino operators catering to American citizens have become somewhat commonplace. That said, with two big regulation bills currently under scrutiny in Congress, many online gambling enthusiasts were hopeful that such events were a thing of the past. Hope again American gambling fans, because we’ve got some bad news.

House Resolutions 2266 and 2267 proposing the reversal of the UIGEA simultaneous to the legalization and regulation of online gambling in the U.S. were on the agenda for a House Committee meeting on April 16, but the bills were pushed off the agenda in lieu of what committee members deemed to be more pressing economy-related matters.

The UIGEA is scheduled to go into effect on June 1 of this year. The act was originally scheduled to go into effect in 2009 but the implementation was delayed to give the necessary government bodies time to review HR 2266 and HR 2267. With the new deadline rapidly approaching and no new hearing yet scheduled, many proponents of online gambling are concerned that the U.S. will return to its restrictive online gambling policies.

Until the UIGEA is implemented, the U.S. government has no official stance on online gambling, but many state and federal offices have used the preexisting Wire Act to prosecute casino operators and funds transfer service companies for sending and receiving the money to and from American residents for the purpose of gambling online. In fact, on April 16 an Australian payment facilitator named Daniel Tzvetkoff was arrested in Las Vegas amidst allegations of processing almost half a billion dollars in illegal online gambling payments.

If the BetOnSports case which just wrapped in January is any indication of how the U.S. legal system plans to treat such operators, then Tzvetkoff could be in big trouble. BetOnSports founder Gary Kaplan and CEO David Carruthers received four years and three years respectively for encouraging their company to accept payments from American banks. Both men were likewise fined a combined total of more than $70 million.

What do the legislation delays and operator crackdowns mean to the common player? If you’re not American, then neither scenario will affect you. If you are an American gambler, you cannot be prosecuted for playing real-money games online, but funds that are in transit to or from an online casino could be seized by a government body. That’s what happened to hundreds of American players when the Southern District of New York seized more than $30 million last year. None of the funds have as yet been returned to the account holders.

Will Canada Legalize Online Gambling Before The U.S.

The new American gambling resolutions have been pushed back once again, and the deadline for implementing the UIGEA is drawing ever closer. Many American online gambling advocates thought that 2010 would be the year that the U.S. finally rescinded the UIGEA and legalize regulated online gambling. Lately, American gambling industry insiders, operators, and fans are sounding a lot less optimistic, and now it looks like their neighbors to the north may get the job done before the U.S. government does.

The Canadian Gaming Summit is in Calgary, Canada this week and the online gambling industry’s leading officials have all gathered to talk about making Canadian online casinos a reality. While online gambling itself is not illegal in Canada – either explicitly or implicitly as it is in the U.S. – operating online gambling establishments inside the country is. Since online gambling is a $1 billion industry in Canada, even without Canadian sites, it’s easy to see how opening the door to native operators could be profitable for the country and some of its tech companies.

The Canadian government currently has a laissez-faire policy toward offshore operators that does little to protect Canadian players. The Interactive Gaming Council, whose president is the lead speaker at the Summit this week, would like to see the government get more proactive about online gambling by attaching new regulations to any Canadian operating licenses. While profit potential is of course a driving factor, many Canadians believe that legalizing native operators would also offer security benefits to the large number of citizens that already play online.

Proponents of online casino licensing in Canada believe that the existing population of gambling citizens will be more likely to play at sites that they know are licensed and regulated by the Canadian government and that the government can do more to fight the growing gambling addiction problem if it approaches it from the source.

Under the country’s current online gambling policy – or lack thereof – Canadian citizens are free to play what they like, where they like, and when they like. The government has absolutely no involvement in the industry, regardless of how its citizens are affected. That means that Canadian players that choose a less than reputable casino and suffer from identity theft can expect no legal recourse via the Canadian government. It’s a gamble at your own risk, but many citizens feel that it’s time for their country not only to claim its share of the revenue but to protect the growing contingent of online Canadian gamblers.

Online Gambling Now Fully Legal In France

When it comes to the latest in online gambling regulations and legislation, all eyes are currently on France. While various members of the EU have been at odds for over a year with their dramatically different laws regarding online gambling, France – which had been straddling the fence for over a year with its highly restrictive gambling legislation – has finally come over on the side of full online gambling legalization.

Earlier this week, in a relatively close vote of 299 to 223, France’s National Assembly passed a new bill that will pave the way for popular online gambling activities like cash poker and sports betting. The bill is now on its way to the European Commission where it is expected to be approved in April. From there the bill will move on to the French Minister who is likely to sign off on the new laws in May, allowing near-immediate implementation nationwide.

It would be nice to say that French legislators finally saw the light, but it’s more likely that what they saw was green. With one of the most popular sports betting events – the World Cup – fast approaching in June, the National Assembly seemed all too eager to push through the once-controversial legislation which should coincidentally be in place just in time to allow the country to profit from remote betting for the event.

In the past, France has only allowed online gambling through approved national operators. Though this new legislation will ideally open the market to more outside operators, finally giving French players their choice of online poker rooms and casinos, many private companies still fear that France will cling to its national interests by continuing to openly favor French-owned operations. These concerns aren’t entirely unfounded, especially since the French-based Mangas Gaming group was the first to profit from new advertising deals.

Reuters released a comprehensive French online gambling market overview on the heels of the National Assembly’s positive decision, and by all accounts the potential profit margin for operators based outside of France are grim, what with continuing restrictions on popular games like roulette and blackjack. Still, such operators remain optimistic about their prospects in France. Leading bookmaker win – which only four years ago faced legal action in France for illegal gambling charges – is only days away from relaunching French access to their sites.